Brunch at Cherry Reds

I love Cherry Reds. It’s like a cross between a cafe and your nan’s front room, and the food is excellent. We went along for brunch the other weekend, and spoiler alert, it did not disappoint. We found ourselves a table upstairs in the John Bright Street branch, and perused the menu. I always struggle to decide what to eat at Cherry’s as it all sounds so tasty! With a very nice latte to assist me, I eventually reached a decision.

Cherry Reds Brunch

It’s been a busy few weeks on the blogger events so just for a change, I decided to try and make a healthier choice. I opted for the Salmon fillet, nettle and caper pesto, asparagus, spinach and mashed avocado, topped with a fried egg (£8). To counteract all that health, I asked to add some extra Halloumi (£1.25). The portion is frankly enormous. The salmon fillet is an absolute beast, and I actually struggled to finish it all. The salmon was beautifully cooked, and was soft and flaky. The egg was perfect too, with a gorgeously runny yolk, which I love. Cutting into the egg sent delicious yolk running all through the dish like a very tasty dressing. Perfect on all that spinach. I could have used just a touch more pesto, but I was amazed by just how much Halloumi I was given. I was expecting a piece about the size of the one you can see in the picture above, but there was another the same size hiding the other side, and what can only be described as a piece like a steak tucked under the salmon. I recommend adding the cheese actually; the saltiness paired beautifully with all the other flavours.  For a healthier choice, this was really satisfying and I was full to early evening, which was impressive.

Pancake Brunch Birmingham

Dave chose the slightly less healthy Big Red Pancake Breakfast (£9.50). This giant breakfast is two pork sausages, two bacon rashers, scrambled egg and hash brown piled high on a stack of fluffy American pancakes, with maple syrup. Dave actually spent some time living out in Baltimore, so he goes bananas for anywhere he can get the american classics right over here. This is actually his go-to Cherry Reds order, which is a good sign! I’d like to see it with crispier bacon, personally, but Dave has never complained. The portion is massive, with good quality sausages, thick delicious syrup and fluffy scrambled eggs. Delicious.

As always, the service was friendly and fast, and we had a very pleasant, lazy brunch and a good old natter. What better way to spend a Sunday morning?

We paid in full ourselves at Cherry Reds. All prices are correct at the time of writing. All opinions are honest and my own. Cherry Reds didn’t know I was a blogger. 

Visiting Fracino

At Birmingham Coffee Festival, I met the very nice Adrian, the MD of FracinoFracino are a Birmingham based manufacturer of espresso and cappuccino machines. When Adrian invited me for a nose around their factory, I leapt at the chance.

Fracino

On arrival, I was met by Business Development Manager, Josh, who made me a very tasty latte and told me a bit about the company. Fracino, which is short for ‘Frank’s Cappucino’, began in 1962 with one second hand coffee machine. Company founder, Frank Maxwell, found the machine in a shop in Italy. A machine tool designer by trade, Frank bought it, took it home and stripped it down and got it working.

Coffee machine

The machine is still working today, and is on display in the Fracino offices. A business was born in Frank’s garden shed, before beginning trading as Fracino in 1990. The company is now run by Frank’s son, Adrian. Fracino very much believe in keeping the company in the family, and instead of moving to a new location, they just keep buying more units on the industrial estate where the company had it’s very first office. From humble beginnings in the shed, Fracino has become a huge company, selling machines all over the world, even to Italy!

DSC03076
DSC03087
DSC03078
DSC03085

Suitably caffeinated, Josh took me for a look around the factory. Fracino is unusual, as they order in very few parts, and in fact fabricate as many parts of the machines as possible on site. Their staff are highly trained specialists, and consider themselves designers as well as engineers, as the creation of a Fracino machine is more creative than your standard factory line.

They also offer a full service (sort of the coffee machine version of an MOT), where the machine is stripped back, thoroughly cleaned and repaired. I was surprised by how small the team seemed to be working on the machines, but there is clearly a lot of pride in the work. I was also amazed to see packing crates ready to take Fracino machines off as far as Japan and Australia.

DSC03081
DSC03084
DSC03082

In the original Fracino office, there is now a mini museum where the original Fracino machines can be seen. It’s fascinating to see how much the machines have changed from the originals from the ’60s. It’s also lovely to see the pride in each stage of the company, from shed to global brand.

DSC03096
DSC03094
DSC03091
DSC03095
DSC03093
DSC03073

Fracino have recently opened a shiny new showroom, where you can check out examples of their machines. Josh walked me through, explaining the different products.

They produce a frankly mind boggling array of products, including traditional espresso machines like the petite Bambino, the domestic Piccono, automatics like Attimo, manual fill like the Classico, the bean to cup Cybercino, the enormous P.I.D, grinders, hot water boilers, roasters, ice machines and glass washers.

There were  a few stand-outs that struck me as particularly clever. The Velocino is a commercial machine that combines the best of traditional machines and bean to cup. Aimed at large chains, this machine allows newer staff to turn out great coffee with the automatic settings, but still offering the artistry of a manual machine for more experienced staff members. The clever Dual Fuel machines can be plugged into the mains, or run on gas, offering portability, making them a very popular option for coffee carts and food vans.

Frank's Cappuccino

Tour complete, Josh made me another latte and we had a chat about coffee culture in the UK. Josh believes that we Brits are actually pretty ahead of the game on coffee, as we’re quick to embrace trends and experiment with coffee beyond your average filter. We agreed we both love the coffee scene in Birmingham. If you like your coffee, there are lots of fantastic independents serving it (often with a Fracino machine…), but there’s a lot less snobbery about coffee than in other cities leading the charge on trendy coffee.

Before bumping into Adrian, I had no idea that Fracino were based in Birmingham. It’s amazing that such a massive name in coffee is based not only in Britain but right here in good old Brum. My morning with Fracino was so interesting, and it was great to have an experience a little outside the blogger. Massive thank you for the invite, guys!

I was a guest of Fracino for a tour, a coffee and a natter, and under no obligation to produce any particular content. All opinions are honest and my own. 

 

 

Nosh & Quaff, Birmingham

After eating the seriously delicious Rib Tips at the Colmore Food Festival, it was only a matter of time before we took ourselves for a feast at Nosh & Quaff.

We went for a late lunch on Saturday. The restaurant was about half full and we were quickly welcomed and led to a booth.

Nosh & Quaff

We started, as usual, with cocktails. Dave chose the Honey Old Fashioned and I went with the Southern Gentleman. I am now revealed as a disorganised blogger, as I can remember neither prices nor contents, and Nosh & Quaff don’t have a drinks menu online to help me disguise my incompetence. I can tell you the Honey Old Fashioned was strong and really tasty, with some pleasant sweetness. The Southern Gentleman uses Chase Marmalade vodka, which made it sharp and refreshing. Perfect for citrus lovers like me.

American barbecue in Birmingham

Instead of ordering mutliple courses, we decided to order a selection of the starters and sides, and share them, tapas style. All the things we really wanted to eat was on this menu, although I’m sure we’ll be back to try some main dishes. The burgers, ribs and hot dogs we could see at other tables looked fantastic.

We ordered Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites (£3.95), Lobster Cakes (£6.75), Hunky Chunk Chicken (£3.95), Rib Tips (£4.50) and Sweet Potato Fries (£2.50).

Hunky Chunk Chicken

The Mac ‘N’ Cheese Bites were probably my least favourite. They were a good size and lightly fried without being oily, but I found them a touch bland. I’d have liked a stronger cheese involved, but there were nice enough when dunked in the accompanying tomato chutney.

The Lobster Cakes were tasty little fritters made up of creole lobster, crayfish and scallions, fried in beer batter and served with a paprika mayo. These were a highlight. Again, not a hint of greasiness from the frying, and they were pleasantly spicy, especially when dunked in the paprika mail. The lobster inside was buttery and delicious.

Rib Tips

The Hunky Chunk Chicken is southern fried chicken, served with Sriracha mayo. The chicken was tender and full of moisture. The coating was spicy, and the mayo was packed with heat too, which I loved. Be aware of you’re not a fan of spice though.

The Rib Tips were a stand out too, as we had expected. Lumps of pork belly, deep fried and tossed in the house barbecue sauce. As before, they fell apart to the touch and the sauce is rich and tangy. I suspect it may be a cola based barbecue. Unfortunately I don’t think there were as a good as the ones we had at the Colmore Food Festival. They weren’t quite as crisp, and one or two were slightly dry inside. I’m just being picky though, as they were so good before, and this version was still delicious.

The Sweet Potato Fries were a mixed bag. The first few were amazing, and I was delighted as I love sweet potato fries. I found though that as we reached the bottom of the pot, a lot of the fries were really undercooked which was a shame.

As you know, I am really fussy about service. We dealt with two waitresses, who were both friendly, and the service was fast. Unfortunately, we waited nearly fifteen minutes for our bill to arrive after asking for it, which was made extra frustrating, as we could see other people who’d arrived after us paying theirs. We eventually had to ask the barman, who was a superstar and sorted it out us for in minutes, apologised and knocked off 10% off the bill because he spotted the ‘Bálor Club’ logo on Dave’s phone case (it’s a wrestling thing, I don’t know…). Points for him, he was great. One point that did leave a bad taste in my mouth is a throwback to my own waitressing days. A table of men were having a great time hitting on their poor waitress and loudly discussing how great it was that you “don’t have to be careful what you say to the girls in here” like you do in other venues (gross) and that Nosh & Quaff is in fact “like the Playboy Mansion” (double gross). It was mid afternoon on a Saturday, which makes me wonder what on earth those poor girls have to put up with on Friday and Saturday nights, and I was disappointed to see the manager laughing along with these cretins, instead of asking them to settle down. I felt bad for the poor girls just trying to do their job, as anywhere I waitressed the manager on shift would have stepped in to protect their staff from being harassed like this.

I would definitely go back to try the main menu dishes, but I think I’ll be sticking to lunchtimes, in hopes of avoiding the ‘Playboy mansion’ type of clientele…

We paid in full (apart from our 10% wrestling discount…) ourselves. All opinions are honest and my own. They didn’t know I was a blogger.